Leadership isn’t rocket science. Creating the conditions for business success is actually pretty basic: be clear about where you are going and why; define what success looks like and track performance; make sure all of your key people on the same page; don’t “wing it” when it comes to important decisions; ensure that every single employee knows how they fit in the big picture and what they are supposed to be doing; create a process for providing on-going performance feedback; hold people accountable for results (including yourself); be careful about who you hire and put in supervisory roles; provide extensive training and support; never stop communicating with your customers; and make sure everyone shares in the success of the business but also feels the pinch of nonperformance.
What are the traits of high performing leaders? Because of my line of my work I am fortunate to spend time with many successful people and study and research the topic even more. One theme that runs through of my experience/research is that financial success (while important) is not the primary driver of an individual […]
Sometimes a leader sticks around too long. I am a big fan of Arsenal Football Club and this has become a much more difficult chore than it used to be. The club that used to be known for its innovative offensive play-making and rock solid defense has become sadly predictable to defend and quite easy […]
Most leaders have an uneven track record when it comes to ensuring employee success. The great thing about my job is that I can find inspiration everywhere, from all walks of life and fields of practice. It is often cliché that leadership development professionals lean on sports and military examples (at least my male colleagues […]
We have become an excuse making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers. It’s seems as if there is minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge. There is […]
Beware of People Who Have Style But Lack Substance… In life we often come across overly charming people, who always seem to know what to say and how to say it. I am always a bit skeptical when it appears that an individual has too much polish. We all know the type, those candidates who interview extremely […]
The leader of an organization always sets the tone. Never forget this fact. I am often slightly bemused when I hear a leader complain about the state of things in their organization. It’s almost as if they remove themselves from the equation. They wonder how things have devolved to this point as if it is some deep mystery when all they have to do is look in the mirror. Your people are a reflection of your hiring decisions; the quality of your meetings is directly related to how you lead them and model this behavior for others; missing deadlines is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate in others and yourself; a lack of focus almost always starts at the top; teamwork only ever happens when the coach sets the expectations and creates the conditions for this to happen; optimistic or pessimistic cultures are usually a reflection of leader’s point of view; etc.
There is a wise old saying that “if you want to get something done, then give it to a busy person.” In my experience this is a pretty accurate depiction of how families, organizations and communities work. They “Type A” person will always assume the most responsibility and be the hub of critical activity. Other people tend to rely on them and their boundless energy for execution. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, this dynamic also ends up becoming somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy as time goes on.
When you own your business it is your sandbox. You get to decide who plays in it and what happens inside. Just remember that these decisions also have consequences. As an advisor to my clients, my role is to get them to appreciate this fact. I’ve often watched people make decisions that I don’t agree with. Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong about what happens next. My track record is usually pretty good but far from perfect. I just want to make sure that these decisions are somewhat informed and well thought out. I am fine with being pleasantly surprised by good results that I didn’t foresee or anticipate. I learn from these situations as well – never underestimate the resolve and creativity of a committed leader. Most importantly, I strive to ensure that these decisions are aligned with the outcomes the client is aspiring to achieve. Success can be defined in many different ways and unless there is a moral or ethical component, it is not my role to judge.
I am a firm believer in persistence and determination. Many people give up just before things are about to break their way. However, it never makes sense to go off a cliff simply because it is there. Not every strategy is wise and not every course of action is worth continuing. You need to pay attention to the signals the universe is sending you. Trends either move up or down. They rarely remain flat. Sometimes the objective evidence indicates you should try something different.
Far too many people think that leadership is about style over substance these days. It’s almost as if it is more important to look and sound like a leader rather than behave like one. I wonder if historical figures like Abraham Lincoln with his high pitched nasally voice ad physical awkwardness or George Washington who was personally aloof and somewhat stiff in public settings would even stand a chance today. When a society starts spending more time focusing on how things appear rather than how they truly are, we as a people are in trouble. It is the content of someone’s character that matters most when tough decisions need to be made. We are in serious times both geopolitically and socioeconomically. We need deliberative thinkers who think before they act, don’t rush to judgment, have the ability to prioritize amongst competing issues, stay cool under pressure, maintain a reasonable level of consistency in their actions and messaging, build alliances rather than make enemies, and tell us the truth even when it is unpopular. The presidency shouldn’t be just a popularity contest.
A leader’s primary job is to rally people around a common goal and convince them they are capable of much more than they think they are. People talk themselves out of success all the time. For the average person it is easy to identify obstacles and reasons why things can’t happen. As a result, we tend to lower the bar so we can make our goals achievable. Leaders should never lower the bar. They should expect more of themselves and their organizations and never settle for being average or second best.
When I used to work for Gallup many years ago they had a great saying, “you can’t put in what God left out.” Many of us spend far too much effort trying to be what we are not instead of focusing on what makes us truly special. We all have natural weaknesses and strengths. Some people are great at details while others seem to effortlessly grasp the big picture. Some people are great thinking on their feet where others thrive using a more methodical approach. There are a few of us with the physical ability to be a professional athlete while others are better at reporting and analyzing the events taking place on the field. The list goes on and on. Of course all of this happens on a continuum, but I believe each and every one of us has gifts and talents that separate us from the pack (if only we are paying attention).
I don’t know when the shift started to happen in my lifetime, but we have changed from a nation that gets results to one that seems to accept a lack of performance and then bemoans our lack of progress. You see evidence of this everywhere you turn: 1) structural economic issues that never get fully addressed; 2) traffic problems that never get solved; 3) infrastructure needs that are constantly put off until there is a crisis; 4) schools that turn out less than stellar results; 5) a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else; 6) a health care system that is broken and too costly to maintain; and 7) wars that are started but never end, etc. Each group of leaders claims they are doing their best given the circumstances and/or blames their opponents for not doing their part. They then have the gall to rant on about our “exceptionalism.” It is a vicious non-productive and self-deluding cycle.
The most successful people I know do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. They are also good at being “present” in the moment and fully engaged in whatever they are doing. They avoid distractions and abhor excuses. High performance isn’t optional but instead a way of life. To them, hyper-performance and multi-tasking is for amateurs.
Growth and improvement as a leader doesn’t always involve heavy lifting or hard work. Here are 15 relatively easy things you can do right away to improve your performance and results
There is no such thing as passive leadership. Leaders lead – it really is that simple. Instead of shying away from a challenge, leaders embrace it. When others are hesitant to take action, leaders step up and seize the initiative. Instead of folding under pressure, leaders thrive under the spotlight and find the harder parts of their job the most rewarding. Leaders intuitively know that everything important begins and ends with them, but the middle part is a team effort and they allow others to step up and share their individual and collective strengths as needed. The best leaders only say “I” when it involves shouldering the blame, but say “we” when it means sharing the credit.
…the ultimate goal of any business should be to have high quality employees who are focused on providing value-added services to a loyal and growing client base in an efficient and profitable manner.
Many leaders often have a hard time getting real honest feedback about their performance. There are many reasons for this, but fear is usually the primary obstacle. Most people have a hard time commenting critically to others who have the ability to directly influence their work situation.
There seems to be a dearth of good strong corporate values these days (and basic common sense). While the objective of any business should be to make a good profit, it should also be to build long term sustaining economic value that accurately reflects the risks inherent in their internal and external environments. The best way to navigate these risks is to have a strong sense of who you are and what you will and will not do.
Besides the quality of their people, what differentiates most high performing companies is their vision, focus and discipline.